Wednesday, January 29, 2020

All About Varied Thrush Birds

Here is a recent post from the Union Bay Watch Blog published by Larry Hubbell, long-time local photographer and birder. Here also is an in-depth article about Larry and his work.

A Winter Thrush

When we sense danger, like a bird, we may freeze for a moment. Our adrenaline pumps, our minds race and we rapidly consider alternative strategies of escape. I suspect the experience for birds is similar - but more intense. Since they are smaller than us, they have more to fear. Internally, I suspect they vibrate at a higher speed. I wonder if the average bird feels like a human who has consumed six cups of fully caffeinated coffee. Their survival depends on their constant awareness and split-second decisions. 
(When we startle a bird the best thing we can do is nothing. Don't move, don't make a noise, don't even stare. Wait and watch - out of the corner of your eye. When the bird returns to feeding, or whatever it was doing, then quietly and slowly move on or assume a more relaxed position.) 
Varied Thrush reproduce in forests, preferably old-growth forests. They are accustomed to clean air, dappled shadows, cool floating mists and silence. The city seems like an odd place to find them and yet they are often here. 
The American Robin, also a Thrush - e.g. a member of the Turdidae family - is a relative of similar size and color. In the fall, the Varied Thrush can occasionally be spotted in the city feeding with Robins on the same types of fruit. Given their preference for quiet the Varied Thrush are likely to be a bit more in the shadows and often further away then the Robins. They are elusive and shy.
September 30th is one of my earliest fall photos of a Varied Thrush. 
Even in October, the Varied Thrush still looks a little out of place when photographed in front of bright green leaves.
However, the fruit they find in the city must be virtually irresistible.
By mid-November, the leaves are turning to autumn colors. 

The Varied Thrush blend in beautifully among fall leaves. The male birds tend to have more black coloring, which I find most obvious around the face. (This is also true for American Robins.)

Among females, their 'black' coloring has more of a faded, brownish tone. No doubt it helps them blend in with their surroundings.

In my experience, I find the Varied Thrush generally silent during the late Fall and Winter. However, in the early Autumn, when walking through the Arboretum just after dawn, you can often hear their lonely, heartbreaking songs. The sounds transport me to the dim, sanctuary of an old-growth forest. These are the songs I would expect to hear on distant mountains especially during the early part of the breeding season. 

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